Why so serious?

My wonderful friend Sam sent me an incredibly sweet email yesterday about the Japanese art of kintsukoroi. Kintsukoroi, meaning “to repair with gold,” is the ancient practice of repairing pottery with gold or silver laquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. Here’s an example:

I’m flattered that Sam thinks it’s an apt metaphor for my situation, even though my boobs look more like The Joker than beautiful Japanese pottery.

We made some big strides toward normal over here in my convalescence suite today. I took a shower, and it was significantly less traumatic than my last cleansing experience. I was able to do most of it on my own, although I had to stick my head out of the shower curtain for my mom to shampoo and condition my hair, since I can’t reach my arms high enough. I’m still not allowed to shave my armpits, and I have to say that frankly, I’m beginning to have some sick curiosity about what’s going to happen to them. The hair is as long as I have ever seen it. It’s practically long enough to braid. I’m turning into my own morbid anthropologic experiment.

Since I only have two drains now, it’s getting a lot easier to manage them. I tied a piece of twine around my neck and hung them from it like a sick tribal gourd necklace. I walked around like that for a while, but eventually my bizarre body fluid jewelry started to bother me, so I went back to just carrying them around like little bloody purses. I will not miss these awful accessories one bit once they’re gone. Wednesday can’t come soon enough.

Now that I’ve had a few days to think on it, I’m incredibly happy with my decision to undergo a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Although I’ll always be scarred and I’ll never be able to breastfeed, I think I made the right choice for me. It’s hard to describe what cancer does to your sense of trust, but it truly makes you feel like a warrior who has somehow ended up in the enemy’s barracks. I don’t feel safe here; I feel like I could get any kind of disease next, like all bets are off when it comes to my health. Saying goodbye to both of my ticking time bombs, however, has weirdly given me back a little bit of peace and normalcy, like maybe I can let my guard down for a minute and there won’t be some other organ waiting to rise up in mutiny against me.

So now that things are slowly getting back to normal as far as my surgical wounds go, it’s time to start thinking about the next step in my treatment: chemotherapy. I have about 1,000 interviews lined up with oncologists at every research university from UCLA to Stanford, even though everybody seems to be recommending the same thing: a regimen called TCH, combining the drugs Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin, followed by five years on Tamoxifen. So far, the doctors seem to be in agreement that my natural fertility will most likely return once my treatments conclude, so there’s no need for egg harvesting or embryo freezing. I’m thankful for that, because frankly, I don’t know if I could tolerate subjecting my body to more drugs, needle pokes and surgery. Each new day is some fresh hell in the medical world for me. I truly count my blessings that things are looking good for my future plans to have little ones running around.

Aside from temporary or (hopefully not) permanent infertility, this toxic cocktail (toxictail?) has a number of other side effects, including some deliciously fun things like nausea, vomiting, bone pain, body aches, fatigue, nail death, heart damage and, of course, hair loss. To be honest, however, I’m not totally dreading the hair loss. Without this impetus, I probably would have gone my entire life without knowing how a shaved head feels. I think the experience will be liberating. I’ve already started a desktop folder called “Pixie Power” that’s filled with pics of gals who rock the shorter hair. Give me the Emma Watson, please!

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